The ESF vs. Liberator Dogfight Guide

Learn how to commit regicide against the secret king of aircraft. A “shredding” surprise also awaits you inside.

Icon_Mosquito Icon_Reaver Icon_Scythe Liberator

Lib_ncThe sound of a faint, subdued rumbling in the background; the instant your ESF is popping when you got daltoned – one-shot! – immediately afterwards.

Ever since Lib crews and soloists got a firm handle on the aircraft, Liberators have, in my eyes, become more iconic for vacuum-cleaning the skies of aircraft rather than for their ground assault capabilities.

Gliding majestically high in the sky, Liberators escape the perception of the careless. To untrained ears, they fly almost noiselessly. Listening out for a Liberator’s faint rumbling, while double-checking one’s minimap if it’s not just a friendly nearby, is an absolute necessity for any ESF pilot in order to stay alive and not get Lib-jumped.

Lone wolves better think twice before engaging a Liberator in — what usually amounts to — a lengthy encounter. Not only will you be wide-exposed to any opposition in the area, and at that for a considerable amount of time, but by necessity dueling a Liberator also means a heavy drain on your ammo count if you pack one of the rotary nose guns and that fact should never be taken lightly.

Just one wrong move, one misstep, and one is dead then? Not quite, but I like the direction this is going in.

Underdog vs. Top Dog

As ESF pilot, it’s important to realize how much Liberators trump ESFs in regard to the trinity of air combat: gun power (including ammo capacity), firing arcs, and hit points. They even sport a good chunk of health reserve in the form of Fire Suppression as emergency backup. Plus, you can’t ever allow yourself to cease hitting for too long because the eight-second cooldown timer of the Lib’s Nanite Auto-Repair is steadily ticking down until it’s too late and the repairs fire off. In terms of maneuverability, Liberators too — not unlike ESFs — are capable of turning sharply and quickly on the spot by ways of reverse-maneuvering.

Lib Vernisage

Lib vernissage?

Tackling them with rotary cannons from maximum render distance is no longer an effective tactic, no thanks to the new damage fall-off penalty and the decrease in ammo capacity that got introduced with Game Update 13. In order to take a Liberator down nowadays, you have to either rely on the default nose guns (much more ammo, less fall-off) or on air-to-air missiles to get ahead from afar; or you must get up close and personal with your rotary.

The latter approach, then, is, in its initial stages, all about precise positioning. Slightly above and to its aft is the Liberator’s blind spot where its two main guns can’t target you. Its tail gun is relatively harmless. On the contrary, a Lib’s nose (Tankbuster) and especially its belly guns (Dalton or Shredder) are highly lethal.

Hover mode gives you the best chances of getting ahead in a potential face-off because you can reverse-thrust defensively to dodge and stay on-target with your nose gun at the same time. But here it already gets tricky since in order to turn and face the Lib, and in order to enter hover mode with enough momentum, you must rely on the reverse maneuver. If the turn is unmasked — which it usually is during Lib encounters for they usually take place at high altitude — the initial slowing down (and turning) during the reverse maneuver leaves you wide-open to getting daltoned which is something competent Lib gunners are well aware of and look out for.

Even more so than in ESF-on-ESF duels, you better be ultra conservative with your afterburner fuel in a Lib fight as well, otherwise you risk running out when you need afterburner the most: when fleeing altogether from belly shots or when you are forced to cut the Lib pilot hard (by overshooting with engaged afterburner) because he is crossing you again with his Tankbuster nose gun.

Enter the Jugg Roll

But irrespective of your positioning and maneuvering skills, staying out of a Lib’s effective weapon range and firing arcs is almost impossible these days — especially so against more experienced crews. Obviously, the key to success is to avoid getting daltoned while maintaining a steady stream of fire.

The Jugg Roll (termed so here after its inventor, Juggernaut, from Waterson’s TR) will provide just that. As we have seen more recently with the maneuvers for dodging air-to-air missiles, the simpler the maneuver, the more effective it becomes in-game. And, really, the Jugg Roll couldn’t be simpler: all you have to do is to constantly roll in one direction while holding down Spacebar (Ascend) when being targeted by the Dalton. Voilà, that’s it!

For some reason, rotating like that around the longitudinal axis of your aircraft makes you an extremely difficult-to-hit target, in particular for one-shot weapons like the Dalton. According to Juggernaut, the roll maneuver works best in a Mosquito, and I can see why (namely because of its very slim profile), but it has not failed me once in a Scythe either. I assume this maneuver makes PlanetSide 2’s netcode go all funk-crazy, and your projected flight path very unpredictable. I found this maneuver to be the most effective with Hover Stability Airframe 3 for the added strength buff to your vertical thrusters, further pronouncing this spinning movement.

No room for mistakes. The Dalton one-shots ESFs.

No room for pilot error. The Dalton single-shoots ESFs.

Let’s dissect the maneuver in greater detail. First up, the maneuver has many upsides to speak of:

  1. You can stay on-target while automatically negating Dalton shots.
  2. It can be used offensively as well as defensively. In other words, it doesn’t matter much whether you are in jet mode or in hover mode (more on that in just a bit).
  3. It doesn’t require even a single drop of your precious afterburner fuel.

Now onto the biggest downside. During the Jugg Roll you constantly roll in one direction in first-person view which isn’t only disorienting but also greatly impedes your aim. This downside can be mitigated a great deal depending on how much you are willing to train in order to get used to the rolling.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the longer you perform the maneuver continuously, the more altitude you will lose in the process. Therefore, it’s difficult to give a general recommendation regarding the minimum altitude required for the Jugg Roll. It’s not like you have the mental breathing room in an encounter with a Lib to stare at your altimeter anyway. But since encounters against Libs usually take place at a higher altitude, ground altitude shouldn’t be too much of a concern provided that you check from time to time how far off from the ground you really are (third-person view is sufficient for this).

As a last note, the Jugg Roll is also perfect for fleeing from those Dalton Libs who tail you mercilessly and endlessly. Simply accelerate to top speed (jet mode), start rolling in one direction (I have rolling bound to “C” just for that purpose alone), hold down Ascend, and enjoy the secure ride toward the next safe haven.

Enter the Shredder

In more organized play, Liberators are sometimes used as aircraft bait for cutthroat airfighter elements comprising its rearguard.

No room for air balance. The Shredder shreds even multiple ESFs to pieces.

No room for balance. The Shredder keeps even multiple ESFs in check all by itself. It’s also insanely good against tanks and infantry.

In that case, even the most effective maneuvers for taking on Liberators — like the one introduced here — are of course far less useful. Such group play, however, doesn’t betray the fact that with the Jugg Roll the once-explosive Dalton Lib situation is practically defused — at least for me.

But if you really considered Dalton Libs unfair and overpowered, then you clearly haven’t fought a competent Shredder Lib yet who, with the right crew aboard, makes short work of even multiple ESFs equipped with fuel pods in a simultaneous everyone-versus-Lib fight no less.

One last piece of advice when fighting Libs: don’t forget to switch off your lumifiber. It makes your evasive maneuvers way too obvious to track for the Lib gunner.

Thanks for dropping by!

Further reading:


2 thoughts on “The ESF vs. Liberator Dogfight Guide

  1. I dint know how to do that ‘Jugg’ roll till I read this. I’ve had mossies do it to me, and its extremely annoying. Now I’ll have to try it out.

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